A child rights advocacy group in Bayelsa, DO Foundation, on Thursday, kicked against the December 26, traditional marriage between a 4-year-old ‘bride’ and a 54-year-old man in the Akeddei community in the Sagbama Local Government Area of the state.
DO Foundation, in a statement availed to the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Yenagoa, described the marriage as illegal, criminal and a child marriage, which is against the constitution and the Child Rights Act.
Mr Elvis Mannie, Bayelsa Chairperson of DO Foundation, signed the statement.
The foundation condemned child marriage as horrendous, despicable, and a criminal activity.
According to the civil society group, the act is capable of retarding the giant strides made by the government and people of Bayelsa in the area of protection of child rights.”
DO Foundation noted that the Child’s Rights Law was domesticated in the state in 2016 and is still in force in Bayelsa.
”This law criminalises child marriages and child betrothals, prescribing various terms of imprisonment and heavy fines,” the foundation noted.
The foundation called on the Bayelsa government, the Gender Response Initiative Team and all stakeholders in the gender response system to immediately swing into action to respond appropriately.
It urged the security agencies to launch a thorough investigation into the incident, with a view to the protection of the child from sexual exploitation.
The group also demanded the arrest and prosecution of all persons culpable in this despicable act.
The foundation has launched an investigation into the development to save the child from the obnoxious situation.
NAN learnt that the marriage between the four-year-old ‘bride’ and the 54-year-old man, identified as Elder Akpos, was at the instance of the girl’s parents.
According to a source who does not wish to be named for fear of penalty for desecrating traditions, the parents of the girl claim that the 54-year-old man was her husband in their previous life.
According to community sources, the girl claimed that the man was her husband, who died mysteriously in their previous life.
The toddler narrated that over the years, she has been moving from place to place, to be given birth to by different parents, searching for her former husband.
The source said: ”The little bride said if she were not allowed to marry her husband, she would have no other business in the Akeddei community, and that she was going to die peacefully and go her way.
“To avoid losing the girl to death, the people of Akeddei decided to organise a glamorous wedding ceremony to mark the union of the two previous life lovers.”